There are several different types of fuel that airplanes use, including Jet A/A-1, Jet B, TS-1, Avgas 100, Avgas 100LL, as well as JP-1 to JP-10 that is used by military aircraft.
Most commonly, piston-powered airplanes, which are the smaller planes used by private pilots, run on 100LL aviation gasoline.
Turbine-powered airplanes, which include passenger jets like the Boeing 737 and 747, use Jet-A aviation turbine fuel.
Airplanes used by the U.S. military mostly run on JP-8 fuel.
Table of Contents
- 1 Airplanes and Helicopters Use the Same Type of Fuel
- 2 How Much Fuel Does an Airplane Use?
- 3 How Much It Costs to Fuel an Airplane
- 4 Helicopters Use More Fuel than Planes
- 5 Differences Between the Different Types of Jet Fuel
Airplanes and Helicopters Use the Same Type of Fuel
Airplanes and helicopters use the same type of fuel.
Piston-powered airplanes and helicopters run on 100LL aviation gasoline.
Turbine-powered airplanes and helicopters run on Jet-A aviation turbine fuel.
How Much Fuel Does an Airplane Use?
The amount of fuel that a plane uses depends on the type of fuel it takes, the size of the plane and its ‘s fuel tank, as well as its range and efficiency.
If we take one of the most passenger jets in the world, the Boeing 747, we know that it burns through approximately 1 gallon of fuel (about 4 liters) every second, or 5 gallons of fuel per mile.
This means that over the course of a 10-hour flight, such as from London to California, a Boeing 747 will burn 36,000 gallons (150,000 liters) of fuel.
Smaller planes inevitably have smaller fuel tanks than larger planes like commercial airliners.
If we take one of the most popular small planes ever built, the Cessna 172, we know that it has two tanks with a capacity of 21.5 gallons per tank and burns through approximately 6-7 gallons of fuel per hour.
How Much It Costs to Fuel an Airplane
The cost to fuel an airplane depends on the type of fuel the plane takes, as well as the size of the plane’s fuel tank.
Cost also depends on market conditions.
Jet A and Jet A is cheaper than Avgas like 100LL because it is less complicated and expensive to manufacture; less expensive to transport; and is produced and sourced in such mass quantities that economies of scale come into effect.
More specifically, as of the beginning of 2022, on average, Jet A fuel costs $5.29 per gallon, we can estimate that the cost of fueling an airplane is as follows:
- Small Private Plane: An average cost of between $250 to $40
- Private Jet: The cost could range from $2,000 to $35,000
- Commercial Airliner: The cost could range from $20.000 to $250,000
Related: How Much Does Jet Fuel Cost?
Helicopters Use More Fuel than Planes
Comparing both aircraft of a similar size, a helicopter is significantly less fuel efficient than fixed wing aircraft.
This is down to the nature of each aircraft’s design.
With an airplane, the wings generate most of the lift; whereas with a helicopter, all of the lift comes from its rotors.
Additionally, helicopters do not fly as fast as helicopters, which impacts fuel economy. When hovering, which very few airplanes are able to do, helicopters also burn through a lot of fuel.
One thing to keep in mind is that fuel efficiency can vary by aircraft.
But generally speaking, planes use much less fuel than helicopters.
Related: How Much Fuel Does a Plane Use?
Differences Between the Different Types of Jet Fuel
Jet A vs. Jet A-1 vs Jet B vs. TS-1
Jet A and Jet A-1 are very similar, with the primary difference being that Jet A-1 has a lower freezing point.
In the USA, Jet A is the standard specification fuel, whereas in the rest of the world, Jet A-1 is the standard specification fuel used. The exception is former Soviet states, where TS-1 is most commonly used.
Jet B fuel is primarily used in some military aircraft, as well as in northern Canada, Alaska, and sometimes Russia, due to its low freezing point.
Military Planes Jet Fuels (JP-1 to JP-10)
The world’s militaries have designed many specific subtypes of jet fuel for specific purposes.
The most important thing to know is that JP-8 fuel is the most widely used type of fuel by the US military for their aircraft.
Other military fuels are used for very specific applications.
Avgas (100 vs. 100LL)
The most commonly used Avgas is 100 and 100LL.
Avgas 100 has higher lead content than 100LL, and is dyed green instead of blue.
Avgas 100LL is most commonly used in North America and Western Europe
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.